Cavite court convicts kidnapper in 13-year case
CAVITE, Philippines – After 13 years, a kidnap victim finally got justice after a Cavite court convicted one of his abductors on Wednesday, October 3.
Cavite Regional Trial Court Branch 18 Acting Presiding Judge Jaime B. Santiago found Virgilio Cupino guilty beyond reasonable doubt over the abduction of Michael Armas in 2005.
Cupino was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or 20 to 40 years imprisonment and eligible for pardon after 30 years.
"This is a vindication of a wrongdoing that has been done to my family, a vindication of our struggle for justice. This has been a very long wait," said the victim's father, Emil Armas.
Emil added that during the trial, there were intervening events like the fatal ambush of their principal witness Elpidio del Mundo, and death threats sent to the Armas family.
Despite this, they pursued the case as they believed it was their social obligation.
“The KFR (kidnap-for-ransom) cases have been there for a long time and they still continue to happen. Hopefully this judgment given to the accused will serve as a disincentive for other criminals to pursue their nefarious activities,” Emil added.
For Michael, who was 32 when he was abducted, the legal victory was not just for their family but also for the family of their slain principal witness whom he called "Tatay Elpidio."
Del Mundo was killed in an ambush in May 2008 while tending his piggery. His wife suffered serious injuries that required prolonged hospital confinement.
Even with the guilty verdict, Michael said he did not feel completely free because of the trauma he suffered, and the fact that his other 3 kidnappers were still at large.
“Naaalala ko 'yung panghihinayang ko sa time na lumipas – that’s 13 years. Within those 13 years, 'yung trauma ko nawala mga 2013 na so pagka iniisip ko 'yon, easily 'yun y'ung 8 years na nawala sa akin. Plus kung hindi kami ginulo ng kidnapping ko, mas maganda siguro ang buhay na tinatamasa ko ngayon, pati 'yung family ko,” he lamented.
(I remember my regret over the time that had passed – that's 13 years. I got over my trauma in 2013 so when I think about it, I easily lost 8 years. Plus if our lives were not turned upside down because of my abduction, my family and I would be leading much better lives now.)
“Nanalo ka nga ng ganyan pero dahil nangyari 'yon, hindi mo pa rin alam kung sinong nagbabantay sa 'yo, and 'yung kids mo. They have information about my kids; they’re doing their homework. Isa lang ito sa mga kidnappers ko, may 3 hindi pa nahuli. So 'yun ang problema ngayon,” he added.
(I had this victory but because of what happened, you still don't know who is monitoring you, your kids. They have information about my kids; they're doing their homework. This is only one of my kidnappers, there are 3 others who have not been apprehended. So that's my problem now.)
Also present during the promulgation of the decision was social activist Teresita Ang See of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) who said that the victory proved that no matter how difficult, justice would be served.
“We have always held on to our belief that evil triumphs because good men do nothing so it has always been our principle that we should not allow crime to pay. Used to be KFR pays and nobody reports, nobody cooperates so it became a perfect crime until we organized the victims to fight back,” said Ang See.
On the night of May 22, 2005, Mike and his two friends were on their way home from a farm in Amadeo, Cavite, owned by Del Mundo – who would become the principal witness in the case – when they were stopped by 3 armed men.
In his statement, Michael said he and his friends were blindfolded while his car was commandeered by the suspects who drove them around for several minutes.
The two others were released while Michael was held for 3 days.
"My hands, feet, and neck were tied to a coffee tree. I was sitting on dirt for 3 days and soaking wet when it rains," Michael recalled in an interview.
He was released after his father negotiated with the kidnappers. The Armas family then sought the help of the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (Pacer) and Ang See's MRPO.
Police operatives, together with Michael and Del Mundo, returned to the area where he was held, which was apparently owned by Cupino.
Cupino was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and kidnapping for ransom. His 3 cohorts had yet to be identified. – Rappler.com